The Roots of Christianity

The Roots of Christianity

Understanding the roots and origins of religions, art, food, sports, government, and the like helps us understand our world.  Studying the past also instructs us about ourselves; it in part forms who we are, what we think, and shows us what we have in common.  Discovering about the lives of others and their stories gives us respect and understanding.  The stories, history, and understanding we learn leads to a better understanding of religious, political, economic, familial, and community situations.  

"During the beginning of the first century AD, a new religion appeared in Judea. This religion was Christianity. Christianity had its roots in Judaism, and was based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. 

When Jesus was born, there were several Jewish groups in Judea. The largest group of Jews followed the laws of Moses very strictly.  Many of these Jews believed a new leader would appear among them. They believed that if they followed the rules, the leader would appear more quickly.  This leader was called the Messiah (muh-SY-uh), which means 'anointed' in the Hebrew language.  For generations Jewish prophets had said that the Messiah would be a descendent of King David.  They said that the Messiah would restore the greatness of David’s ancient kingdom in Israel.  When the Romans took over Judea, many Jews felt the Messiah would be coming soon. 

Jesus of Nazareth was born at the end of the first century BC.  Much of what we know about Jesus is contained in the Bible, the holy book of Christianity.  The Bible is made up of two parts.  The first part of the Bible is called the Old Testament, which is mostly the same as the Hebrew Bible.  The second part, the New Testament, tells the story of Jesus and the early history of Christianity. 

According to the Bible, Jesus was born in Bethlehem (BETH-li-hem) to a woman named Mary and her husband, Joseph, who was a carpenter.  Christians believe that God, not Joseph, was the father of Jesus.  When Jesus was about 30, he left his home in Nazareth to travel and teach.  He gained many followers, and also made enemies.  The Roman leaders thought Jesus’s teachings challenged their authority.  Jesus was arrested and executed by crucifixion.  Jesus was buried; Christians believe he rose from the dead three days later.  This is called the Resurrection.  The Bible says that Jesus made many appearances to his disciples, or followers, during the next 40 days. 

Jesus chose 12 of his disciples, the Apostles, to spread the message of Christianity.  They were close friends and followers chosen and trained by Jesus himself.  However, another man, Saint Paul, was the most important figure in the spread of Christianity, although he never met Jesus.  Paul traveled to many cities and wrote long letters explaining the meaning of Christianity.  Paul did more than anyone else to spread Chrisitian ideals.  After he died, Paul was named a saint, a person known and admired for his or her holiness. 

Apostles and teachers like Paul quickly spread the message of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.  As Christianity became more popular, Roman leaders began to worry.  At first Jesus’s followers had focused on converting only Jews.  Soon, Christians began preaching to non-Jews.  They offered copies of the gospels to everyone. 

Some local leaders arrested and murdered Christians.  These Christians then became famous as martyrs, people who are killed for their religious beliefs.  Saint Peter, an Apostle and the first bishop of Rome, and Saint Paul were murdered for teaching Christianity.  Some Roman emperors outlawed Christianity and persecuted Christians for their beliefs.  Christians wore secret symbols, such as a fish, to identify each other. 

For centuries, Christians have honored key events in Jesus’s life.  Some of these events inspired holidays that Christians celebrate today.
The most sacred holiday for Christians is Easter, which is celebrated each spring. The exact date changes from year to year.  Easter is a celebration of the Resurrection.  Christians usually celebrate Easter by attending church services.  Many people also celebrate by dyeing eggs because eggs are seen as a symbol of new life.

   Another major Christian holiday is Christmas.  It honors Jesus’s birth and is celebrated every December 25.  Although no one knows on what date Jesus was actually born, Christians have placed Christmas in December since the 200s.  Today, people celebrate with church services and the exchange of gifts.  Some people reenact scenes of Jesus’s birth."

Many things have changed, many events occurred, and many generations have come and gone sine the beginnings of Christianity.  If you, your neighbor, your schoolmate, or co-worker are a Christian, what should you know?  

The bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek by those that lived during and after the times.  "When the translators came to the Greek word πισευω (pist-yoo’-o) they didn’t always adequately translate it. πισευω is a word with compound nuances. At once it roughly translates as the verbal phrase 'to faith in' and the noun 'faith.' The word 'faith' in English is an abstract noun, it is not a verb, such as πισευω is. If the KJV translators already used the noun 'faith' in a sentence, they would use the verb 'believe' later on in the same sentence, even when πισευω was used in both instances in the original text. This is likely because their style wasn’t conducive to using the same word twice in the same sentence."  We would have to invent the word "faithing" to describe the Christian relationship with God.

Pastor Gene Scott "described πισευω with the 'A-B-C’s' of Faith: 'Action based upon a Belief sustained by Confidence.' Since there is no action word for Faith in English, the KJV translators chose the closest one they could find - believe. Unfortunately, to ‘believe’ is only a portion of the essence of πισευω. For example, you can believe the railing on the edge of a great cliff overlooking the Grand Canyon will hold you, until you actually walk over to it, lean your weight on it and see that it does, you never know for sure. That is what πισευω means. It means you acted upon a belief, sustained by confidence and found a level of knowledge you never had before."

Dr. Gene Scott was a "pastor and religious broadcaster in Los Angeles, California.  Scott showed disdain for other religious broadcasters like Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart and bristled when people referred to him as a 'televangelist,' preferring to be regarded as a teacher and pastor.  Melissa Scott, is the widow of Gene Scott, an ordained minister and religious broadcaster.  Since her husband's death in 2005, she has led the congregation at churches in Los Angeles and Glendale, California as the executive pastor."

“The light illuminates me; I stand here-’that I might be made right 
for my faith.’ No movement. No works. No moving around. No 
mulling around. No doing. No don't doing.”

- Pastor Scott

Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one doth come unto the Father, if not through me".  Unlike other religious and philosophical figures, Jesus sat himself at the center of authority, perfection, the eternal, and the religious universe.  

Buddha equated life to suffering (part of his Four Noble Truths), focused on ignorance rather than sin, and offered his Eightfold Path to nirvana, escape from suffering (right view, right intention, right speech, right discipline, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration).  Buddhist monks are to adhere to the Five Precepts, which prohibit killing (including animals), prohibit stealing, encourage abstinence, prohibit wrong speech (including gossiping), and prohibit drugs and alcohol.    

Muhammad, the founder of Islam, described himself as a prophet that received a vision from God.  

Confucius provided a logical analysis of living in his culture.  The aim of man, according to Confucius, was to discover our real self, to learn--gain enlightenment, develop shame, and become good. 

Han Fei and Li Si, the founders of Chinese Legalism, provided a political philosophy about power and did not address the purpose of life.  The premise of this philosophy is that man is self-centered and must be controlled by a strong hand.  Shi Huangdi wrote, "The ruler alone should possess the power, wielding it like lightning or like thunder."

 Lao-Tzu was a philosopher of ancient China and is the main figure in Taoism/Daoism.  Taoism is polytheistic and holds a reverence for ancestor spirits.  Deceased ancestors are said to give wisdom and guidance to harmony.  The aim of Taoism, wu wei, is for man to place himself in harmony with the universe.

Keeping in line with placing himself at the center of autority, Jesus said, "Go ye in through the strait gate, because wide is the gate, and broad the way that is leading to the destruction, and many are those going in through it; how strait is the gate, and compressed the way that is leading to the life, and few are those finding it!" (Matthew 7:13-14).  Christianity places at its center God as eternal and all powerful, "That is the true born-again experience – a generator of life, a regeneration, a new creation that penetrates my cell structure and is placed in me as a gift from God when I connect by trusting His word.  That's the genesis of all Christianity, properly seen, that Christ is in us the hope of glory.  God puts a life in us capable of regenerating, and that's why spirituality is the expressions of the spirit, and why righteousness is called the fruit of the spirit. It is that new life growing out through us which can only be maintained by faith in His word...", Pastor Melissa Scott.

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